1. Get Organized
You can’t just offer two options and call it a tasting. Having 9-12 new whiskies on hand makes for a full evening. It’s fun to have an old standard available as that may be the only thing some of your guests will ever have tried before, but what makes a tasting a memorable experience is the fun of sharing some unusual discoveries. You don’t necessarily want to break the bank by investing in a dozen large bottles you’ve never had experience with yourself. Whisky Loot solves that problem by providing a subscription service that delivers new samples to your door each month. That’s a painless way to sample a super cool collection of unusual whiskies, not all of which are easily available at the local grog shop. You can, of course, haunt specialty liquor stores in the months leading up to your event and stock up that way, but the point is you need to think about this well in advance so you have a really good selection on hand when the guests start to arrive.
2. Who’s Invited?
Decide in advance if you just want a few close friends to come over (we recommend 4-6 as a minimum group size), whisky drinkers only, or if you’re happy to have plus ones come along as well, even if they won’t be part of the tasting. This is also a good time to decide whether or not you’ll have a theme or if you would like to implement a dress code. Sort those details out before you send the invitations with date, time, location, and the planned format of the tasting.
3. Plan The Process
Do your homework and know a bit about each of the whiskies you are going to serve. Provide a carafe of water at room temperature for those who prefer to add a splash of water to their drink. Water is also useful between samples, to cleanse the palate. It’s just as important to reset your nose, so to speak - sniffing some fresh coffee grounds helps accomplish this. Each dram should be about 1/8th of an ounce, if you are planning to sample up to a dozen whiskies. For fewer, you can get away with a slightly larger pour.
4. Find the Glassware
Use proper whisky glasses to fully appreciate the complex aromas and flavours offered by each sample. Tulip-shaped glasses are the standard as they concentrate the aromas en route to your nose.
We recommend grabbings some Glencairn glassware which can really open up the flavours.
5. Make Some Tasting Notes
Pre-print your own blank tasting note pages for guests, or download a tasting guide we've made for you here. Include the name of each whisky and plenty of room for guests to record impressions about appearance (colour and clarity), smell (get specific - which floral, nut, or spice do you detect?) and, of course, taste (at least twice for each sample - some also like to add a third and fourth tasting after adding a bit of water). Remind guests to cleanse their palates and take a break between samples. A whisky tasting is about the company, the conversation, the process - take your time!
6. Sequence Strategically
Start with the milder whiskies and move on to those with stronger flavour profiles, allowing time between each for cleansing the palate, some discussion, and to give people a chance to make their tasting notes. For each sample provide a little background about the distillery, the whisky’s history, and any relevant information about the particular whisky itself and its production.
7. Guide Your Guests
Not everyone will know how best to sample a whisky, so take some time to educate your guests on how to fully appreciate the experience of a fine whisky. This guide for beginners covers all the basics.
8. Don’t forget the Nibblies
Yes, the focus is on the whisky, but provide some finger foods for guests to snack on. Some prefer to select foods that pair well with particular whiskies, but others suggest leaving the eating until after the tasting is done so as not to affect the taste experience with strong food flavours. We also recommend suggesting that guests not wear strong perfume or other scents to a tasting as the sense of smell is so closely involved with the tasting experience.
9. Provide Cab Vouchers, a Spare Room, or a Designated Driver
After all the fun is over, make sure you provide a safe way for everyone to get home (or, a comfortable bed to wake up in the following morning). After all, some of your guests might just fall in love with that Rampur single malt from India and spend a little too much time getting to know their new best friend. A non-drinking friend or spouse might be willing to be a designated driver - just remember to show your appreciation with some tasty non-alcoholic beverages and snacks!
Enjoy your evening spent sipping whisky with friends -- there’s no need to feel overwhelmed, particularly when it comes to seeking out interesting whiskies you might not come across otherwise. Whisky Loot’s subscription service makes it easy to find some truly special whiskies to make sure your next home tasting is a resounding success.